St. Tammany deputy shot on Easter morning out of ICU

COVINGTON, La. — Deputy Justin Nail, the St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputy who was shot after a vehicle pursuit early Easter morning, is out of ICU and remains in stable condition.

Deputy Justin Nail

According to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, 24-year-old Joseph Johnson, the man who shot at Deputy Justin Nail and was killed during the exchange of gunfire, was driving a stolen GMC Denali when the pursuit began.

The sheriff’s office said deputies responded to multiple reports of vehicle burglaries in the Madisonville and Covington areas during the early morning hours of April 1.

Shortly after 4:30 a.m., deputies saw a disabled vehicle near Highway 1085 and Highway 1077 and came in contact with 24-year-old John Halley of Covington. While deputies were speaking with Halley, it was determined that he was one of two suspects involved in the vehicle burglaries.

Deputies then saw the other vehicle believed to be involved in the burglaries, a black GMC Denali, in the area. It was later determined that vehicle was stolen late Saturday or early Sunday from a neighborhood in the Covington area.  Deputies tried to stop Johnson, the driver of the Denali, which resulted in a vehicle pursuit.

The pursuit continued for several miles, with the vehicle ultimately becoming disabled off the roadway on Highway 1077 near Railroad Avenue. Deputies approached the vehicle. During the course of making contact with Johnson, he shot at deputies, striking Deputy Nail. Deputies returned fire and Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputy Nail suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston said Johnson sustained gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest and abdomen.

Detectives have tied Halley and Johnson to at least nine vehicle burglaries throughout the parish during their weekend crime spree.

Also, the gun that was used to shoot Deputy Nail was stolen out of a vehicle in Slidell.

Halley was arrested and booked into the St. Tammany Parish Jail on the following charges: Illegal Possession of Stolen Things and Simple Burglary. More charges are possible.

Deputy Nail, 36, underwent surgery Sunday morning at a local hospital. He was transferred off the ICU Monday  evening and remains in stable condition. Deputy Nail and his family have asked for privacy as he continues to recover. Nail has been with the agency since May 2007.

“I want to thank the community for its outpouring of prayers and support for our all of our deputies, who put their lives on the line every day to keep St. Tammany safe, and particularly for Deputy Nail during this time, and I ask for them to continue,” Sheriff Randy Smith said.